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Microsoft: Windows XP SP1 Due in August-September

During a news conference on steps Microsoft is taking to comply with the antitrust settlement, company officials said Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) will be available in the next two months.

"Late in August or September, Windows XP SP1 will be released," said Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel Brad Smith. Smith later clarified that the release could come in the latter part of September. "We will meet the deadline that we have set for ourselves to ship it this summer. There is still some chance that it will slip."

An August-September availability for SP1 is earlier than some previous published reports indicated. Windows XP became generally available in October 2001.

SP1 came up as a major element of a news conference about Microsoft's progress thus far on the settlement agreement between the company, the Department of Justice and the nine settling states. A federal judge has not yet decided on the settlement agreement and is still considering a challenge from the remaining state attorneys general who did not agree to the settlement.

In Windows XP SP1, Microsoft will introduce two feature elements intended by the government to prevent the company from unfairly exploiting its desktop monopoly to encourage use of its middleware products. Included in the settlement are Internet Explorer -- which was at the heart of the antitrust case -- Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger, the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine and Outlook Express.

On the user side, Microsoft created a new tool in the programs menu that allows users to hide the five pieces of "middleware," although the tool does not remove them.

Another element of the service pack will be a capability for OEMs, such as Dell, HP and IBM, to pick and choose among such middleware options when putting the Windows XP operating system on computers they sell. Computers could become available from OEMs in the next few months that ship with the RealNetworks RealOne player and AOL's Netscape Navigator in a Windows program menu that does not include Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player.

Similar changes were introduced in Windows 2000 Professional with Service Pack 3, which became available last week. Although Microsoft mentioned the changes prior to SP3's release, the company did not highlight the settlement-related changes in documentation accompanying the service pack's release.

The Windows XP service pack's middleware removal capabilities for end users will be slightly different from the version in Windows 2000 SP3 due to beta tester feedback that Microsoft is still incorporating. According to Smith, Microsoft has focused on making the Microsoft middleware removal tool easy to understand for its broad base of end users, who vary widely in their experience with computers. Windows XP ships in a Home Edition as well as a Professional Edition. Windows 2000 Professional, on the other hand, was always intended for business users. "The changes that we are making do make these things even clearer," Smith said.

A clause in the settlement agreement holds that middleware pieces introduced in the future by Microsoft may be subject to the hide/removal requirement.

There are hard brackets on either end of Microsoft's Windows XP SP1 release timetable. The service pack may not be released until relevant API (application programming interfaces) have been published. Those will go up on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Aug. 28, so the service pack cannot be released before that. On the other end, Microsoft is obligated under the settlement agreement to include the user and OEM changes by November.

Microsoft recently claimed to have licensed 46 million copies of Windows XP.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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